Missouri and Ozarks History

Information and comments about historical people and events of the Ozarks region and surrounding area.

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I'm a freelance writer specializing in the history of the Ozarks and surrounding region. I've written fifteen nonfiction books, two historical novels, and numerous articles. My latest books are Bushwhacker Belles, Wicked Women of Missouri, and Yanked Into Eternity: Lynchings and Hangings in Missouri.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Roy Daugherty and the Fairview Bank Robbery

My book Ozarks Gunfights and Other Notorious Incidents contains a chapter on Roy "Arkansas Tom" Daugherty, and I've briefly summarized his "career" on this blog before. He was one of the few outlaws whose criminal career spanned both the Old West era and the gangster era. After spending a considerable time in prison during the late 1890s and early 1900s, Daugherty returned to the southwest Missouri area upon his release and soon resumed his criminal career, graduating from fast horses to even faster automobiles.
Today, let's take a look at one of Daugherty's specific capers in the southwest Missouri area: the robbery of the First National Bank of Fairview. He and his cousin Albert Johsnon, a former Barry County deputy sheriff, had held up the Farmers and Miners Bank of Oronogo, north of Webb City, on December 13, 1916, and then a month later, they teamed up with Jesse Cutler and William Massee, setting their sights on pulling off a job in Fairview, fifteen miles east of Neosho.
About 3:00 p.m., January 15, 1917, the gang pulled up to the side of the Fairview bank in a “new, seven-passenger Buick touring car.” Massee stayed behind the wheel with the engine running, while the other three men hopped out, donned masks, and entered the bank. Whipping out their revolvers, the gang members forced the cashier to open the vault and then herded the cashier, his wife, and a bookkeeper inside. The robbers made the hostages face the wall with their hands above their heads while the bandits gathered up all the cash in sight, about $2,500 total. The gunmen then closed the door on the hostages, took off their masks, and walked nonchalantly out of the bank to the waiting getaway car, which took off to the north at “a high rate of speed.”
Unbeknown to the crooks, the cashier’s wife had held the vault combination to keep it from locking when the door closed, and the hostages emerged from the vault to give an alarm as soon as the gang was gone. A posse quickly formed and gave chase, north through Wentworth and toward Reeds, but the lawmen had tire trouble and lost all trace of the robbers, forcing them to call off the pursuit.
In mid-February, Johnson, Cutler, and Massee were arrested in Joplin after a fifth gang member, who’d been ill at the time of the robbery and unable to participate, grew angry and turned them in because they refused to share the booty with him. Johnson and Cutler then implicated Daugherty as the leader of the gang, but Arkansas Tom was nowhere to be found at the time.
A day or two later, Daugherty was located in Galena, Kansas, and arrested there by two Joplin detectives. He freely admitted participating in the Oronogo and Fairview heists but steadfastly clung to the thieves’ code of honor and refused to say what role, if any, the other captives had played in the robberies, despite the fact that they’d implicated him.
In late February, Daugherty drew eight years in the state penitentiary for his role in the Fairview robbery, while his sidekicks got off with lesser sentences. Given an early release in late 1921, Arkansas Tom soon went back to the bank robbing business by holding up the Bank of Asbury. He was killed in a shootout with Joplin police in 1924 while still on the lam from the Asbury caper. He is buried in Joplin’s Fairview Cemetery.

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